The Winery: Bookcliff Vineyards

Opened: 1999

The People: During a spring backpacking trip in 1994, Ulla Merz, a computer scientist, and John Garlich, a civil engineer, discovered the town of Palisade, an oasis of green in western Colorado. For years they had grown grapes in their backyard and made some wine themselves, but it wasn’t until this trip—and the completion of a viticulture seminar later that same year—that they seriously considered opening their own vineyard and winery. In 1995 they took the plunge and purchased a 10-acre peach orchard, which they painstakingly converted to grapes over the next few years, all while still working their “real” jobs.

(Read about the peach-growing families of Palisade)

The Space: Bookcliff’s winery and tasting room are located in North Boulder adjacent to US 36—an easy place to stop if you’re driving between the metro area and Lyons or Estes Park. The industrial exterior belies the cozy tasting room, which features a chic bar with high stools in front of a custom-built rack displaying dozens of neatly arranged bottles, as well as padded bench seats artfully decorated with orange and green throw pillows. In the back of the large, open room, rows of glistening silver fermentation tanks give the space a futuristic feel.

The Grapes: John and Ulla grow almost all their grapes themselves on acreage located at the eastern end of Grand Valley, where the winds blowing out of DeBeque Canyon stir the air and keep the frost away from the vines. Their growing season runs from the third week of April to the end of October, when the final varietal, Cabernet Sauvignon, is harvested.

The Wine: Bookcliff offers a large selection of red wines, as well as four varieties each of white and dessert wines. Standbys include the fruity 2013 Viognier, which pairs well with turkey and seafood, as well as the 2013 Dry Muscat Blanc, which has a hint of ginger.

Buzzed Trivia: Bookcliff’s bestseller, Friday’s Folly Red, is named for a rock climb on the back of Boulder’s Third Flatiron. The white version of Friday’s Folly was originally called “Lucky Twenty” for an optimistically named gold mine in Ouray that eventually struck lead.

Taste It: Bookcliff’s tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m. They charge $5 to sample 5 wines, but this fee is refunded if you purchase two or more bottles. You can also buy each wine by the glass or by the case (15 percent discount).

Take Home: Try a bottle of each of Bookcliff’s four red wines, which have won golden trophies in the prestigious Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition: Malbec, Cabernet Franc Reserve, Petite Sirah, and the Ensemble, a smooth and fruity blend that pairs nicely with steak.

Visit: Bookcliff Vineyard’s tasting room is located at 1501 Lee Hill Dr #17, Boulder; 303-449-9463

(Nine urban-ish wineries to try)

Terri Cook
Terri Cook
Terri Cook is an award-winning freelance writer based in Boulder. More of her work can be found at